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Pre-dawn seemed ominous, less rosy than it usually was at this time of hour. The sky was drenched in streaks of crimson, painting the Falcon-Head's bronze plumage bloody copper. He flew in low and fast, pointed wings folded close to his lean frame; at the last minute, his legs straightened, pinions flaring wide as he dropped to land. Silver talons scraped across the worn stone ledge as he skidded to a halt, expertly flicking his black-tipped wings over his back. Vagan paused, looking over his shoulder, steely grey eyes narrowing as he gazed towards the horizon ... and the Arena. With a shake of his small head, he pressed forward, knowing that there was no more time left.

He found King standing in front of his bedroom mirror, simply staring at his reflection. The white-red's tail was low, crest flat. Vagan waited respectfully in the archway, knowing that now was not the time for his usual sharp tongued greeting.

"What do you fear, Vagan?" The words were raspy, as if coming from a raw throat. "I fear death this day; I have never feared it before."

Vagan shifted. His eyes, normally narrowed, relaxed. "Death is almost a non-entity with us," he said at last, leaning up against the arch. "How can we fear death when it is not permanent?" He watched King's face in the mirror, saw the red lines in his eyes, the tiredness.

"Aye." Looking briefly over his shoulder, King turned back to the mirror. "You did not answer me," he said quietly, absolutely no reproof in his voice.

"What do I fear?" That was something he hadn't thought of in a very, very long time. Long-repressed memories flowed up from the depths of his ageless mind, pulling him back to a time where the Vahazayi had no cares, when there was no war or power-struggle ... when they were one. Pain long shoved to the very bottom of his soul bubbled forth. He opened his black beak ... nothing. How ... how could he put into words, into THOUGHTS, this feeling?

King looked back at him fully now, his tailfeathers twitching in anxiety. A long silence stretched between them as Vagan was caught up in a rush of memories. Kind colorless eyes, fire-core white; gentle golden pinions; wise beyond all.

"I fear loss." The words slipped over his forked tongue, barely registering on King's keen ear. The black whorls seemed to expand, making his eyes wider, larger ... innocent -- scared.

"Who did you lose?"

Vagan looked up, wiping a wingclaw over his black cere, wiping away the fine line of sweat that beaded there. He and King stared at each other, no longer Lord and Lieutenant with an uneasy partnership, no longer immortal. Fallable, fearful individuals locked diamondshaped eyes: one pair steely grey, the other warm grey. "My ... Father." A liquid crystal tear welled up from the corner of each eye unbidden. How long had it been since he'd uttered that endearment? 600 million years or more.

For a moment, neither dared to breathe. Then King found his tongue. "You were fire-born --"

Vagan shook his head until downy fluff fell from his silver crest and bronze pate. "He was my father -- OUR father. All of us fire-born he raised, loved ... loved even when certain ones disappointed him, foul-mouthed him." Laughter resounded in his mental ear, a memory from childhood, of a sparkling glen and the two of them -- Vagan naught but a youngling, bouncing on Solarius' long leg. His laughter, his father's laughter. And all taken away. "I would give my blood to have him back," he said quietly. Their eyes locked again. "I know you have no love for him, no love for anything, but if you love your life, win today and strike out on the path to Change."

King blinked. No love? "What if I do not?" he replied, equally quiet.

Vagan turned then, looking over his shoulder. "I will do anything to make sure you do. Come. Our fears make us who we are, but they shall not rule us."

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